Rogue One: The movie I just wasn’t ready for

Title: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Forest Whitaker
Release Date: December 16 2016 (IN THEATERS NOW)
Reviewed by: Lori Twichell
Rating: PG-13
FA Scorecard: A

This is a little bit review mixed with a little bit of article/opinion. I promise it contains no spoilers. 😉

So I feel like I need to start out this article with a couple of confessions. One: I am a Star Wars geek. I grew up wrapped around the world of these characters. My mother was more of a Star Trek fan, but for a young girl, there wasn’t a lot that I connected with in the Star Trek universe. The women felt more ornamental to me. Princess Leia was a cornerstone of Star Wars. She was gorgeous AND she kicked behind. That was something I could grab on to. And I did. I grew up with Star Wars and I have nurtured and grown that adoration for that galaxy far, far, away through the years. I have a dog named R2D2. I have been blessed to work with Peter Mayhew a couple of times and now call him friend.  On the night of the early screenings of Rogue One, at least a third of my friends list were WORKING the events as members of the 501st.  I have read nearly all the books (The ones that were cannon and then weren’t and now the ones that are as well!)

I AM a Star Wars geek.

I also should confess that I wasn’t really looking forward to this movie. I didn’t have a connection with it. Han Solo and Obi Wan Kenobi are my two favorite characters in the Star Wars universe. Though all feel like friends at this point, those two resonate with me. No promise of either. Characters I didn’t recognize. A mission that was a throwaway line in one of the seven movies. I’ve also been quite busy with some very serious health issues in my house – so that played a part of it as well. The fact that we went on Friday wasn’t so much a “I have to see this now!” as it was “Hey, I have turned in some projects and cleared some time – let’s all go celebrate.”

Usually I research my Star Wars movies pretty meticulously. I followed all of the Star Wars sites and stories almost obsessively before The Force Awakens released. I avoid spoilers at all costs, but I do want to know as much as I can. With Rogue One, my friends can attest that I just did not engage. I didn’t research. I didn’t talk. I didn’t debate. I just sort of let it be.

So now you can understand just a little bit of why I left that movie absolutely stunned. For a movie that didn’t feel like *my* Star Wars before I went in to become one of (if not THE) favorite movie out of the franchise? Seriously? I’m still a little slack jawed at that.

What about the review portion of the program here?

Well, Rogue One turned out to be stellar storytelling that stepped away from all the Star Wars traditions and created its own tone and pace but it was firmly cemented in the Star Wars universe. I was shocked about halfway through the movie to find myself in tears and actually thinking, “This IS my rebellion.” How on earth did that happen?

The characters were rich and vibrant. My daughter left the movie and wanted to know more of their story.  Both of my daughters were asking about potential plot and storylines. (I sense Star Wars fanfic becoming part of our homeschool writing lessons as soon as the holidays are over.) This was a surprisingly deep story for a one off film. And though you recognize Star  Wars in it, this is a whole new area we haven’t seen. And it’s not like The Force Awakens – with old beloved characters introducing the new. There were plenty of opportunities where they could have anchored it more heavily to the Skywalker portion of the Star Wars saga, but they didn’t. And it worked really well. Though there were a huge number of Easter Eggs and enough of a love letter for the fans, it wasn’t in your face. I feel like this kept things classy and solid. It was almost like the new kid in class making his mark. I really loved that part of it.

This is the first Star Wars where the war was not sanitized. That should be noted for any parent who is planning to just take their kids. If you feel that you know Star Wars so you know it will  be okay, walk cautiously. This one is heavy. The deaths do not happen in the vacuum of space.  It’s THERE. At one point, I felt my stomach churning while I watched. I’m a military spouse. I do not watch military movies because my husband has lived battle scenes. Friends of ours have passed. I can’t handle it. I wasn’t expecting the military movie angle on this one. I expected a heist – like Ocean’s Eleven or even Ant-Man. Nope. They don’t sanitize it for you.  Now let me say this – It’s  not, by any stretch, Saving Private Ryan or Blackhawk Down. They’ve done a beautiful job making sure that buckets of blood didn’t need to be thrown all over. But it’s not lightsaber duels in the arena either. In those, you see flying limbs that aren’t even really bleeding because the lightsaber cauterized the wound. These are the stories of the foot soldiers. The grunts, if you will. So if you plan to take kids, go see it first and then decide. The movie is well worth a second watch.

This changed the Star Wars universe for me. My kids mentioned that too.  One of my daughters said, “The order of my favorite heroes is all messed up now.”  I know what she feels. This movie changed it all. A New Hope is completely different now. Even the beloved “May the Force be with you” is no longer just a greeting or a goodbye.  I gasped and sobbed just a bit at one point in this film when it was uttered.

I will also say that this movie cemented my idea that George Lucas really needed to just shut up and get out of the way. He started the ball rolling but it was, by no means, fulfilled and complete with his vision. This movie is gorgeous. And actually, Lucas owes them a debt of gratitude. The creators of Rogue One actually fixed some major gaps and loopholes that he’d left wide open in his story. These plot holes have now been filled in, covered over, and have made the Star Wars universe stronger and better for it.

I loved Rogue One. I cried through most of it. Sobbed through some of it. And I am a bigger Star Wars fan today because of it. (Twenty four hours ago I would have laughed at that statement!)

Thank you Disney for giving me my franchise back and letting me share it with my kids.

May the Force be with you.

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